I was hunting the evening of October 13th 2015. The conditions were windy (strong west wind), overcast, and cold. I first saw the buck around 6:15 and let the arrow fly around 6:20. As soon as I saw him I knew he was a shooter. He was taking his time eating acorns as he approached a shooting lane. I figured it to be about a 40 yard shot to where it looked like he may give me a shot. I make judging distance easier on myself by marking a few trees in each direction at 30 yards. I then can compare that to where the deer is standing, rather than having to worry about fumbling around with my range finder during a high pressure situation.
Ross with his giant Washington County Buck.
He was slightly quartering toward me from right to left, but mostly broadside. While I was waiting for the shot I was doing everything I could do to calm myself down and not focus on the rack. I remember focusing on the tail and body and saying to myself it’s just like a doe.
After roughly 5 minutes of waiting (which seemed like 20) he finally stepped into a shooting lane at 35 yards. I was able to draw back while he was looking straight forward and let the arrow fly. As soon as he was hit he tore off in my direction and I could see one of his front legs dragging and no arrow sticking out of him. I was happy to see the leg dragging because I knew I had hit him, but worried because shoulder shots do not usually kill deer. His tail was also in the air which is not typically a good sign.
I watched him run about 100 yards to where he disappeared out of sight. Since I knew he was a ways off I climbed down from the tree right away and went to the spot where he was standing. I found bright red blood right away, but not a ton. My arrow was laying on the ground about 5 yards into the blood trail, broken off at the tip with about 4 inches of blood up the shaft. I called my brother Austin and told him I had hit a giant, but wasn’t sure of how well I hit him.
He proceeded to ask, “With the bow? Or with the truck?”
I chuckled and told him with the bow. He said he could hardly understand me, of which I blame my stumbling on the adrenaline.
The quartering towards shot entered in front of the closest shoulder and hit the off-side shoulder breaking the arrow on impact.
I proceeded to follow the blood trail 75 yards or so before stopping to prevent pushing the buck. I then compared my broken arrow to a full length arrow. It was a lot less broke off then I had initially thought, only about 5 inches. So at this point I was very concerned. . . 5 inches of penetration, a shoulder shot, tail in the air, and the deer ran 100+ yards. I knew it would haunt me forever if I didn’t find him. Knowing I probably didn’t hit him well enough for a quick kill, I decided to wait 3 hours before taking up the blood trail again.
My friend, Ryan Justman, and I went back out around 9:30 to continue tracking the deer. There was steady blood, but not a lot of blood. The one thing that made it a bit easier was that the buck ended up going into marsh grass and due to his broken shoulder he pretty much cleared a path for us to follow. 150 yards in we found where he had bedded down. There was about a 10 inch circle of blood which didn’t seem like a whole lot. At this point we were thinking this is not looking good. Not much blood in the bed and if he had enough energy and strength to get back up after bedding down, he is probably long gone. But as long as we had blood, we would keep tracking him. After another 20-30 yards of minimal blood we saw a patch of grass with a ton of blood on it and then another just 5 yards further. And then, there he was lying dead just 10 yards away! He was already a bit stiff so he probably expired rather quickly. I gave my buddy Ryan a big hug and said he’s a giant! He shook my hand, took a few pictures, and then we began the drag out.
In total the deer ran about 300 yards from where I shot him. It was the best and worst drag of my life -through thick marsh grass, through water, and up a steep hill. Of course he ran in the opposite direction of where I walked in and parked the truck, so it was a good 400 yard drag.
Ross with his buck of a lifetime right after they found it piled up in the thick marsh grass.
I ended up hitting him in front of the shoulder in the brisket area. My arrow went through the deer and hit his right (back) shoulder which is what broke my arrow and broke his shoulder. I thought the arrow only had 5 inches of penetration, but there was blood 4 inches up the shaft so it actually had about 9 inches in total. Needless to say it was it was not a good shot, as I was aiming behind the shoulder. Thankfully I must have caught an artery somewhere in there.
I never had any photos of the buck or even knew he existed in the area. The only prior knowledge I had of him was 4 days prior to the day I shot him. I saw a deer about 100 yards away and the rack looked very big. I only saw the deer for about a minute, but it was right in the same area. I knew it was a big deer since the rack was that prominent at that far of a distance. I can’t say for sure if it was him, but if I were to bet I’d say it was.
Trail cam photo from two years ago.
I did actually have someone contact me via facebook who had pictures of my buck two years ago. The pictures were taken in the same area and he had the same unique 3rd beam coming out of the skull so it has to be the same deer. He was still a shooter back then, but was only an 11 and not nearly as impressive. No one else has mentioned seeing him or having him on camera, so he has done a good job of avoiding hunters. I would guess the deer has to be 5 ½ or older if he was already a wall hanger two years ago.
The mass, tine length, and frame on this buck are all very impressive.
I thought he was a 12 before we had found him, but he turned out to be a 14 point buck with 12 main frame typical points. He has two non typical points which is the separate beam out of the skull and the split tine on his left antler. The inside spread is 17 3/8. Gross green score is 183 7/8”, net score is 167 6/8” if scored as a typical. If scored as a non-typical his gross score would be 191 2/8”, net score 174 7/8”. The deer was measured by Dave Strupp who is a member of the Wisconsin Bear and Buck Club. He is not officially certified, but has measured many deer over the years. The buck weighed 175lbs dressed out.
The current Wisconsin Washington County record for a typical whitetail deer taken with the bow is 170 6/8 net. Second place is 166 6/8. Dave said the spread is really the only thing that shrinks after the 60 day drying period and usually isn’t more than a half inch. That would put him in line to be the second biggest typical whitetail deer ever taken in Washington County with the bow.
The stand I was hunting is located near a bedding area where the deer come from later in the evening and head to fields in the area. There are a few good runways that come through that the deer use. As far as why this buck happened to be walking during the daylight by my tree is beyond me. I’m sure it was likely due to the big cold front that was pushing its way throughout much of the Midwest. I was just in the right place at the right time. He was not chasing and wasn’t in rut. He was all alone and seemed to be pretty comfortable pawing around and eating acorns. He was defiantly cautious, but no more than any other mature deer.
I was hunting private land in the West Bend/ Slinger area. It is a spot that I had asked permission to hunt 5-6 years ago. There is a lot of conservation land in the area that does not allow hunting so the deer have a lot of area where they are safe and can get big.
SIDE NOTE: Back to Back Years of Legendary Whitetails harvested in Washington County
Here’s a line from a recent Outdoor Life Article that featured another Washington County giant taken by Ben Zuern last year. The buck earned the Deer of the Year for the 2014-2015 season. It’s not unthinkable that maybe the Weber buck will bring home another Deer of the Year Award for Washington County, Wisconsin.
“Wisconsin is a top trophy-buck producer, but most of those deer come from ag country in the west (think Buffalo County). Southeastern Wisconsin is mostly small farms, suburbs, and little woodlots. There are big deer here, but they are far more rare.”
Pictured above is Ben Zuern with his Washington County whopper from last year. The two massive bucks are remarkably similar in terms of overall appearance and score.
The biggest challenges in the area are finding properties to hunt, finding quality deer, and dealing with hunting pressure. There is a fair amount of public land around in Washington County, but it gets hit pretty hard. There is a ton of private land, but many do not allow hunting or hunt it themselves. Those that do allow hunting usually allow a number of people to hunt their land. So that’s always the biggest challenge going into every hunting season. There is also a ton of conservation land in the area which does not allow hunting. It’s good because the deer are protected and get big, but also hard because many times those deer stay inside the conservation area and are unhuntable. That is usually the case more times than not. The other problem in the area is most people will shoot anything they see, there is really no consistent quality deer management going on in Washington County on a large scale basis due to the number of small parcel landowners.
OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES
I always keep my eyes open for new places to hunt and try to ask a few new places each year. The answer is no 90% of the time, but it’s worth it for the one time someone says yes and it ends up being a decent spot. As far as the QDM goes, I try to let everything go that won’t go on the wall and shoot does for the freezer. I also try to get out more during the week when most other people are busy. That helps a lot with the hunting pressure on the properties I hunt.